Being married is far from easy. Being married to a soldier...it isn't even on the spectrum. Thankfully, God has guided me through my marriage, comforted me in my husband's absence, and taught me to look to Him through the inevitable and frequent challenges.
In all honesty, this is the last lifestyle (I thought) I wanted--moving around constantly, far from friends and family, enduring deployments, and often solo parenting. The starry-eyed vision I had for my future included a husband with a predictable job, teaching high school, buying a forever home, and giving my children a place where they could grow up with lifelong friends.
However, God had a different plan, a better plan, a plan that helps transform my character to look more like Jesus, and provides plenty of opportunity for me to rely on Him! He knew that I would learn to embrace moving, that I would look forward to change, that I would make friendships with deep roots, that my place would be in the home with our children (for this season), that I would learn to see the military as my mission field, and that I would be a better wife to a man whose job placed him in the face of death--learning to genuinely appreciate his life.
Although a Christ-based marriage requires daily, diligent effort, the joys and rewards are immeasurable. Being married to a Godly soldier has allowed me to grow deeper in my relationship with Jesus than I ever fathomed.
After thirteen moves, twelve years of marriage, seven home churches, six posts, three state teacher certifications, three children, and one God-fearing husband, I've figured out what it takes to make a marriage survive, and thrive.
I'm absolutely still learning how to navigate this thing called marriage and making mistakes every day, but I'm seeking God's wisdom (and forgiveness) at each turn. I pray you find these 30 tips helpful in growing a marriage that glorifies the Lord. May His peace abound as you embrace the abundant life with your spouse, through Him.
1. Don't engage with past love interests or members of the opposite sex (Psalm 51:10)
Cease communication with former partners, including on social media. Additionally, keep a healthy distance with the opposite sex--in the workplace, and in friendships. It's too easy for a causal relationship to turn into something more, even if just in your thoughts. Guard yourself and your marriage!
2. Live separately until your wedding day (Romans 14:13)
This was a HARD one for me as I prepared to move across the country for my (at the time) soldier boyfriend. I did not believe in God or Jesus at that point in my life so I could not comprehend why I should move from Arizona to Alabama and not live with him. Wasn't the point for us to be together?! Thank the Lord, Tim stuck to God's plan for our lives and we lived separately until we were married. The sacred vow to stay together through trial is not present before marriage; it is essential that you live apart prior to your wedding day to set yourselves up for success. (Galatians 6:7-8)
3. Wait for marriage (Mark 10:6-9)
It is imperative that you wait for sex until marriage. Sex is a blessing only meant for a husbands and wives, but it is destructive outside the boundaries of marriage. Sexual intercourse creates a bond that is only meant for your husband, not your boyfriend of finance. If you're unmarried and engaging in sex, you can stop anytime! A man should respect you enough to honor God's plan for marriage and wait until you are his bride. Then enjoy the fruits of intimacy with your spouse! (Mark 10:6-9).
4. Make God the center (Matthew 6:33)
If God is the focus of your family and He is the number one priority, then everything will be easier in your marriage! With the same playbook, the rules are already determined; there is no guess work. All of the answers to any potential problems or concerns is already recorded in the Bible.
5. Don't micromanage (1 Peter 3:1-4)
I am a control freak! Can any of you relate? I think it's best if I micromanage everything. Well, I know it's not the best, but it's my fleshly desire to be in complete control. I even sneak into the kitchen to flip the bacon if my husband is cooking. However, my micromanaging has NO positive effect in my marriage. I need to learn to let the little things go. It's okay if he burns the bacon!
P.S. After twelve years of marriage he has finally learned to make perfect bacon!
6. It doesn't matter where we are, as long as we're together (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
As a military spouse, I've lived in some undesirable locations. Can anyone say El Paso? But after enduring two deployments I couldn't care less about where we live. As long as my husband is not at war and safe in bed beside me, I'll live anywhere! (But if Army Human Resource personnel is reading this, I'd rather not move to Ft. Polk!)
7. Find time to serve (John 12:26)
When I first moved to Alabama, my future spouse was serving at church in the praise band. I was a non-believer, and then new believer at the time. I disliked that his playing meant time away from me while he practiced during the week and I felt desperately uncomfortable sitting by myself in the church while he played on stage. However, God changed my heart on this issue and I learned that it is vital for me and my husband to serve in church. God gave him the gift of music and he truly moves people when he performs. I've gone from heckling him to encouraging him to play.
8. Make time for yourself (Psalm 51:10)
My love language is quality time, so I want to be with my husband whenever we can. However, I've learned it's important that we make time for ourselves. We need to recharge and refocus in order to best serve one another.
9. Apologize (James 5:16) and forgive (Ephesians 4:32)
Before marriage, I lacked significantly in the apologizing department. My nature is stubborn and prideful. Luckily, God has shown me how essential it is to apologize. Naturally, we will hurt our partners. We must learn to say sorry as soon possible after hurting our spouse. Even if you feel like you are right about an issue or you didn't do anything wrong, if your spouse is hurt, you owe them an apology. And make it genuine! When your partner says sorry, accept it. Unforgiveness is poison to your soul. One of the most significant lessons I've learned is that forgiving is an opportunity to be more loving and become more Christ-like.
10. Your spouse is not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12)
When my husband was in Afghanistan for his second deployment, I read a sensational book called When War Comes Home, in hopes of understanding my husband when he returned. One brilliant element of the book explained that our spouse is not our enemy. Satan is the enemy. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy our family. We cannot let him steal our joy and destroy our marriages. When you are angry or frustrated with your husband, remember that Satan is the one causing the conflict. Your husband is on your team (even though it may not feel like that in the moment), and you need to understand this to reframe your mind and emotions.
11. Don't let the sun set on your anger (Ephesians 4:26)
For some reason, we like to hold on to our anger and our "rightness." Yet, God's Word says that we should not let the sun set on our anger. Before falling asleep, take the time to communicate with your partner and find a peaceful stopping point from where you can resume later, if needed.
12. Pray for him (James 5:16)
It is essential that you pray daily for your spouse--specific, strategic prayers. What better gift can you give him then to cover him in prayer and Scripture each day? Help your husband be the best person and partner possible by lifting him up to the Lord.
13. Respect him even if he doesn't deserve it (Ephesians 5:33)
Participating in the Love and Respect program was a huge turning point in our marriage. I learned that God calls me to respect my husband, always, no matter what, even if he doesn't deserve it. That's a tough one! A man needs respect like a woman yearns for love. If we respect our husbands they will be more open to loving us as we desire.
14, Meet your man's needs (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
Okay, let's be honest here. A man needs respect, but he needs sexual intimacy with his wife (and so do you). God's Word says the husband and wife have authority over each other's body and He has designed this act to be a blessing for a man and his wife. Wives, we must make this a sincere priority. If you're sleep deprived and exhausted in every sense of the word (like me!), ask God to give you the will and desire. Don't be afraid to seek Christian counseling in this area. Many us struggle with issues from past sexual assault and we need help walking toward freedom from the trauma.
15. Don't complain, just support (Ephesians 4:29)
Being married to someone in the military gives you lots of room to complain. A soldier is always on call, barely home, required to move often, absent for months of training and deployments, and rarely able to put his family first. I've learned that my complaining does nothing to help the situation. Instead, our marriage is more successful if I support him and respectfully explain my struggles. He doesn't like the demand either, but it comes with the job and he's doing the best he can to be present.
16. Pray before discussions (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Before approaching you husband to have a serious discussion about your relationship, pray. Ask God to give you a gentle spirit and guide your words. Request that He helps you to maintain respect towards your husband and to be who God needs you to be for your spouse.
17. Speak calmly when addressing a situation (Ephesians 4:15-16)
There's no way around it, you're going to have differences as a couple that need to be discussed. At the beginning of our relationship, I didn't know how to "fight." I would get angry and shut myself in a room or drive off to remove myself from the situation. I've since learned that if I want to get my point across effectively I need to stay calm and have a discussion, not an argument. After taking the Love and Respect class, we now know how to end "the crazy cycle."
18. Continue to date your man (1 Peter 4:8)
It doesn't matter if you have ten kids or you don't have any at all, you need to spend time out as a couple! At least once a month it's imperative that you take time to regenerate and remind yourselves of the love that brought you together.
19. Take a vacation sans kids (Romans 15:5-6)
There are phenomenal benefits to getting away once a year, just the two of you! Date nights are great, but the extended time that a vacation offers allows you to create new memories and continue to advance your love and friendship. Pile on the romance and enjoy the freedom that abounds without children in tow.
20. Maintain your individual friendships (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Once you're married, and especially once children arrive, it's hard to find time for your friends, but it's necessary that you do. Again, you need to continue to be you in your marriage, and your friends are part of that equation. It's a blessing to have supportive and encouraging friends that will uplift you, listen to you, and guide you.
21. Find similar interests (Romans 15:5-6)
Tim and I struggled with this one initially. Although we're both Type-A personalities, the similarities end there. While he likes an action packed vacation, I prefer to relax and rejuvenate. While he likes watching sports, I prefer a romantic comedy. While he wants to be surrounded by lots of people, I prefer spending our time alone. Luckily, we've found a few things we both enjoy to help us bond--eating out (does that count?), movies, and golf. Hopefully, we can continue to grow this list!
22. Share responsibilities on the homefront (1 Corinthians 13:5)
There's no getting around expectations in marriage. We expect certain contributions from our spouse. Marriage is a partnership. I believe both people are responsible for taking care of the family and home; thankfully, my husband feels the same way. This makes sure that neither one of us becomes exhausted by responsibilities. Sharing is caring.
23. Praise and appreciate one another (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
We all desire to hear "thank you" when we've contributed to the family. It is essential to speak these words to our spouse! It's easy to get used to each other and our daily tasks, but we need to praise one another every day and say thank for everything, even the most minuscule contributions.
24. Use the 1-10 scale (1 Corinthians 13:5)
From Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, Tim and I learned about the 1-10 scale. This is one of the quickest ways to solve a dispute. When you're in disagreement, decide how important the issue is to you on a scale of one to ten. If it's only a six for you, but a nine for him, then he wins. For example, being on time is a 10 to Tim. Meanwhile, it's only a 3 for me. So, I do my best to be on time.
25. Memorize Philippians 4:8
Let's face it, sometimes our spouse makes us think negative thoughts. It's easy to get frustrated with one another amidst everyday life. Memorizing Philippians 4:8 has saved me on this front. Whenever I begin to think something that's other than pleasant I immediately repeat this verse to myself: "What ever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pleasing, whatever is admirable, whatever is lovely, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." As soon as I say that to myself, I'm back on track to respecting my husband.
26. Continue to learn (Philippians 1:9-11)
No matter if you're in a weak spot in your marriage or feeling content, it's imperative that you continue to learn about how to be a better partner and grow your marriage. Seek advice from successfully married couples you admire, Bible studies, and Christ-based films, books, and podcasts.
27. Surprise him (Hebrews 10:24)
Don't let the hum-drum of life take over your marriage. We need to continue to excite our spouses, just like when we were dating. It can be as simple as a surprise date night or as extravagant as a surprise vacation. Be creative and adventurous!
28. Complement his appearance (Hebrews 10:25)
We all want to know that our spouse is attracted to us. It's probably one of the things that brought you together in the first place. Even though he may already know you find him attractive, tell him. Boosting his confidence is so simple with this complement.
29. Learn his love language (Romans 12:9-10)
Another exceptional resource that enhanced our marriage is the book The 5 Love Languages. I learned that my husband's love language is physical touch. Prior to learning this, I primarily showed him affection the way I wanted to experience it, through quality time. When I consciously focus on showing him love via his language, he receives my love much more effectively.
30. Make a list of his best qualities (1 John 4:7)
Recent research shows that one of the best things you can do for marriage is one of the simplest--make a list of all the things you love about your spouse. Remind each other to go back to the list every once in a while and spend time remembering why you fell in love with your husband.
I asked my husband to add his perspective on tips for a peaceful marriage, focusing on the lessons he's learned since we said our vows. Here are a few more lessons, from a man's heart, that can help your marriage thrive.
1. Be on the same page financially
2. Temper gets you nowhere
3. Prevent problems before they happen
4. Talk to each other about social issues and faith
5. Confide in God and your spouse
6. Find a way to sacrifice when necessary
7. Love your spouse's sports team
8. Write love notes
9. Touch your spouse
10. Connect with your spouse's family
I hope these 30 (+10) tips inspire you to love your spouse well. May God fill your marriage with His peace! To help us all continue to grow, what are the most significant lessons you've learned in your marriage or witnessed in another couple's partnership? Please share!
This article has been edited and updated since it's original publication on 10/8/2015.
10/8/2015 10:50:34 pm
Great topic Ashley! Something we can all aspire for in our marriages. I will read it again with my bible in front of me to see the references! Thank you for your insight.
10/9/2015 01:27:27 pm
Thank you, Marianne. I started to write this post about how we celebrated our sixth anniversary and it turned into a little more =). I hope the Bible verses bless you!
10/8/2015 10:50:49 pm
This is such a touching and uplifting point of view. As a veteran and a military spouse myself I understand both points of view. They're both tremendously hard but so gratifying. Thank you so much Ashley for taking the time out to write what I needed to hear. God Bless.
10/9/2015 01:30:08 pm
Thank you, Jaime! I'm so glad it spoke to your heart. Amen to the point that both positions are gratifying, soldier and spouse. Thank you for your service to our country, and please extend that to your husband as well!
Sharon J. Stites
10/9/2015 08:17:26 pm
You two are an amazing couple, and, Ashley, you have a real gift for writing insightful words. If everyone followed this plan, divorce would be totally eliminated--divorce attorneys would need to find a new profession, and the world would be so much better! God's blessings on your family! We love you so much and are so very proud of both of you.
10/10/2015 07:12:06 am
Oh, Sharon, your words are truly powerful! That's what I pray, that this list can inspire others to really experience the JOY and PEACE of marriage and not fall into the pit of divorce and the pain that leads to that decision. Marriage is intended by God to be a blessing, but our world's children are not seeing this and thus, not wanting it for themselves. When I was teaching high school I had my students rate a list of priorities in their life, and marriage (almost across the board) ranked LAST. It broke my heart! If we put God first and our marriages second there could be a true revival in our country!
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